English Adamites

A radical English sect active during the 1640s, characterized by their controversial beliefs and practices, including Antinomianism.

The English Adamites were a radical sect that was active primarily in the Greater London area from around 1641 to 1650, during a period of intense religious and political upheaval in England. This group is noted for their association with Antinomianism, a belief system that posits that those who are saved are not bound by moral law, as they are considered to be under a state of grace. This doctrine led to the rejection of most social, moral, and civil restraints, which was controversial and seen as radical by many during that time.

The Adamites sought to emulate the perceived innocence and purity of Adam and Eve before the Fall, a pursuit that led to practices like communal nudity, which they believed represented a return to a prelapsarian state of innocence. Their meetings were reportedly held in private homes, often characterized by various degrees of undress among the participants, although evidence suggests that public displays of nudity were likely exaggerated by contemporaneous critics as a form of propaganda​​​​​​.

The term “Adamite” was used derogatorily by contemporary religious authors such as Thomas Edwards in his work “Gangraene” (1646), to describe various groups he deemed heretical. This branding as Adamites was not limited to this specific group but was a common label for several fringe religious groups perceived as threats to the societal norms and religious orthodoxy of the time. It’s important to note that much of what is known about the English Adamites comes from their opponents, which paints a possibly biased picture of their beliefs and practices​​​​.

The Adamites’ radical views and practices made them a significant point of interest in studies of religious and social radicalism in 17th-century England. However, specific details about their organizational structure and the exact nature of their practices remain sparse and uncertain due to the lack of primary sources that come directly from the group itself. After 1650, mentions of the Adamites wane, and they likely did not survive the political and social shifts leading up to the Restoration in 1660​​​​​​.

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